I watch a lot of TV, and I mean, a lot. Possibly too much. But in everything I watch I am plagued with irritations from patriarchal and misogynist ideas that are everywhere in modern media, and this feels inescapable. But have I found my saving grace?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ‘Once Upon a Time’. As suggested the show is about fairy tales and fairy tale characters, but don’t be fooled. Here you won’t be seeing the fainting Disney princess who waits for her prince to save her. Here you will see women kicking ass and fighting for what they believe in, this is often ‘true love’, but what’s a fairy tale without a bit of true love?
Meet our protagonist, Emma Swan, genuine bad-ass and woman of conviction who will never shy away from a fight, physical or otherwise. Emma’s character feels real, she can’t be boxed and categorised as many other women can in media, instead she has true depth and growth. She is brought into the storyline by her biological son Henry, who just happens to have been adopted by the evil Queen, Regina Mills. The topic of mother-hood could be a sticky subject, but here handled well. Emma sticks by her belief that giving Henry up was the right decision for her because she could not give him everything that he needed. There is no burden of guilt upon Emma for making this decision, and the show does not try to prove that women are defined as mothers and are destined to be so. But instead promotes the idea that women should choose whether being a mother is right for them.
And what really is a breath of fresh air is the testament that you don’t need sex to sell, just interesting plot lines. There is no sexualisation of any of the characters, and that’s not to say that there isn’t any sex and there isn’t any cleavage on show. It is there, as it is a persons right to show as much or little of their body as they like, but there are no lingering camera shots nor written scenes that objectify any of the actors bodies. I wouldn’t put this down to the 8pm air time, but a well written script that doesn’t create an adult show simply adding sex to children’s stories. Instead they have turned fairy tales on their heads, and shown that women are empowered, smart and strong, and who can drive a story without being put into the ‘shoes, diets, make-up’ box.
It has been hard to surmise a show in such short a space, and I am not saying that the show is perfect as people of colour and non-hetero sexualities are under represented, but ‘Once upon a Time’ flies the feminist flag well. And I would hope that you would give it a go, because it really deserves more attention.